You’ve read tons of articles on email, content and social media marketing. You know to make your emails responsive, to write well-researched content and share it on social media. But have you ever contemplated how all these pieces fit together within a successful digital marketing strategy? Do you want to zoom out and see the bigger picture?

Within financial services, we know that the sell cycle and buy process can be long and drawn out. Often times it requires over 7 touch points, multiple meetings and months of creating and delivering value to enhance the buyer’s portfolio.

By implementing an inbound strategy, you are putting qualitative value over quantitative value; easing off the hard sell by empowering the buyer with all the resources he/she wants and needs, and coaxing them down an imaginary, yet very strategically detailed, journey.

Understanding how inbound marketing works will help you keep a focus on the bigger picture of your marketing strategy. But how do you define inbound? According to HubSpot, “inbound marketing is an approach to that focuses on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful – not interruptive.”

There are 3 main interdependent concepts that lay the foundation of any inbound strategy:

  1. Buyer personas
  2. Buyer’s journey
  3. Stages of inbound marketing

Compared to traditional “push” marketing strategy, an inbound one “pulls” in those interested without being intrusive. It incorporates content marketing, social media, SEO and more to draw customers to your product/services; it creates a spider web of valuable resources that are one search away from your prospects. Investing in inbound is investing in empowering your buyers.

Investing in inbound is investing in empowering your buyers.

Buyer Personas

How can you market to an audience you can’t define and don’t understand?

The first step in the creation of an inbound marketing campaign is to identify your target audience and put it down on paper. It is likely that since the sales team knows your clients best, they will take the lead creating buyer profiles. That will help marketers understand the audience, it’ll guide their targeting and marketing efforts, and ultimately generate new leads. The personas should include a demographic profile, background, challenges, interests, goals, and insight on behaviors, if available.

While buyer personas work — 71% of companies who exceed lead and revenue goals have documented personas — only 44% of B2B marketers use them. One can speculate that B2B personas are more difficult to build but remember that they can be enhanced as you learn more and the campaign progresses. Personas are important during all stages of your campaign. Whenever a new marketer joins the team or there’s a tough decision to be made, buyer personas are a great home base to reference.

Interestingly, development of new technology suggests that AI will soon replace buyer personas, so stay tuned, personalization is about to become real!

Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey is a prospect’s route to becoming a client, and it’s broken down into 3 stages. A good rule of thumb is that there should be an equal amount of content for all 3 stages of the buyer’s journey.

3 stages of buyer's journey

1. Awareness – identifying problems

Financial advice: If you were creating a campaign on a particular topic, this first piece of content in the campaign would be more about the ‘what’. What is the current situation and what sort of impact does it have on the market and an investment portfolio? This should be more generic, lighter and investor friendly to gain interest. Here is where a Market Insights article or blog might come in if there is something that is currently occurring in the market. This will ensure that you are part of the conversation and relevant if they search the topic.

2. Consideration – looking for a solution

Financial advice: You have now created ‘the need’ for the buyer. They understand that it is an issue and they are looking to fix it. This stage is key to ensuring that you not only have marketing collateral, but you have in-depth product materials on the value it has such as pitch books, white papers on the product or asset class, investment ideas, etc.

When you map out your buyer personas and find out where your clients’ challenges lie, provide them with the necessary educational resources, solutions, very subtly mention your product/services and wait until the decision state for heavier self-promotion. Educating prospects should be your highest priority.

3. Deciding on a service

Financial advice: By this stage, inbound leads would have been communicated and are handed over to sales. Marketing should have already provided the buyer with all they need, and now it is time for sales to do what they do best.  Materials during this stage would be different per buyer as some would care for more comparison tools on performance and others might want to know more about how the portfolio manages the strategy or fund.

Understanding your visitors’ questions and challenges at each stage helps marketers create relevant content and cater to their needs accordingly. Think of every situation, need or want that a buyer might have during the journey, and be sure you are ready to fuel them up at every pit stop with knowledge and resources.

Stages of Inbound Marketing

En route to guiding a stranger to becoming your client, there are 4 stages marketers need to be aware of.

Stage 1: Attract

A visitor unfamiliar with you and your services somehow finds their way to your website. You need to make sure your website is findable, SEO optimized, has the right keywords, and it is shareable across relevant social media channels.

The easiest way to attract a stranger is to dazzle them with remarkable content. What sets “content” and “remarkable content” apart is its context and timely relevance, which goes back to your buyer personas. Does your content help identify challenges your prospects are facing? Does it address their worries and guide them towards determining what issue they need to find a solution for?4 stages of inbound

Stage 2: Convert

Once a stranger is familiar with your website, you want them to keep coming back; you want to be able to inform them of the relevant market developments.

The most unobtrusive way to get a visitor’s email address is to provide them with next-level content that addresses the already identified challenges and provides solutions. Such content can be an investment idea, whitepapers or a webinar. The key is to “hide” it behind a snappy form with a clear headline, imagery and a CTA. By authenticating through a form and filling out information such as email address, visitors are converted into leads. As a “reward,” they can now download your content. Don’t forget to make a landing page with your lead in mind – make it responsive and allow them to share it on social media. You also might want to take that opportunity to add them to a marketing automation workflow in order to continue the journey with more similar, relevant content.

Once you have all the information you need, take advantage of a marketing automation workflow. The inbound mindset relies on educating and adding value – keep educating your leads by sending them relevant content!

Stage 3: Close

You have an email list of leads and your job is to nurture them into clients? Email is your best friend.

First and foremost, make sure you have the right content for the right audience and you send it at the right time; segment your contact database and consider using marketing intelligence. Marketing and sales work closely together on setting organizational goals, making sure buyer personas are accurate and leads are moving along the marketing pipeline.

At this stage of inbound in the financial world, there is also a distinct “hand off” from marketing to sales. Marketers have done the best of their abilities to attract a prospect online and it is up to sales to “close the deal” offline.

Stage 4: Delight

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to stop going above and beyond for visitors once they become clients. Happy clients are the best advertising agents – they serve as agents spreading the word about your company. Naturally, relationship managers are vital for delighting clients but for employees to do their best, they need to love your company first only after that can the build trust with clients.

Remember, delighting is 80% listening, 20% talking, and 100% educating.

With all the fascinating technology of today, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, cold call sales seem more outdated and less strategic than ever. In 2017 attracting new clients is heavily dependent on one’s successful digital marketing strategy, crafted by a team of both marketers and sales people. Don’t push yourself on them, let them and make them want to come to you.

Tailoring buyer personas, understanding your buyer’s journey and how marketing plays a role in the 4 stages of inbound marketing is the essence of a successful digital marketing strategy. For in-depth resources on inbound marketing learning, check out HubSpot’s free Inbound Certification Course and some of the many successful inbound success stories.